The young guitarist has certainly learned a thing or two! Filling the boots of Slash is no easy task and neither is dealing with Guns n’ Roses mouth-piece Axl Rose! However, Ashba now finds himself the owner of his own clothing company Ashba Clothing, the MD of his own media company Ashby Media not to mention his main musical focus these days – SIXX AM consisting of one Nikki Sixx, the infamous bassist and founding member of super sleaze giants, Mötley Crüe.
With the band’s ten-year existence racking up a total of five studio album’s (the fifth due on November 18th), there is a real sense of SIXX AM finally becoming a band that can stand alone as a legitimate band (which they are) rather than being referred to as a ‘side project’.
OD – So SIXX AM is back with the follow-up album to Vol 1 Prayers for the Damned, which was released this past April. Vol 2 Prayers for the Blessed is set for release next week (November 18th), what I want to know is did you guys record both albums in one session or did you take a break between Damned and Blessed?
DJ – We actually wrote and recorded both albums in a nine month period. We entered the studio with the mindset of making a double album but the way we did it was to make two individual albums that coexist within each other. We were very aware of double albums having a very bad rap, usually with the first being packed with all the good songs and the second filled with the leftovers. We very much wanted to do the opposite was even more kick-ass than the first. We just approached it like we were writing two separate albums.
OD – In terms of the entire writing and recording process for both albums, how long did it take and was there some writing that occurred while in the studio or did you pretty much have everything tracked and demoed.
DJ – Well, the entire writing and recording process for both albums was nine months. We have never in our history ever worked out guitar solos before recording. We like to be spontaneous and have a certain organic approach to the way we capture our material. We have “loose” arrangements of the material which we use as a sort of guideline, but ultimately we tend to work on capturing that magic for the first time when we are recording.
In some cases, there might be a song that calls for the solo to be mapped out for one reason or another, but I really like to just let myself go with experimenting on arrangement and approaches to the structure of each solo.
OD – The title of the album both Vol 1 Prayers for the Damned and Vol 2 Prayers for the Blessed could not be more apparent for the world we live in now and with recent happens in America. Are there any particular insights on the material on this album that you would like to share?
DJ – Well we’re not a political band and never plan to be. It’s kind of like trying to live under a rock to get away from all the political stuff that’s going on right now. We try to keep a clear head for what we are writing and steer clear of being specific to one particular side. As artists, we write about what’s going on in our lives, from personal stuff to our social surroundings and the various people that we get to know or have known for a whatever period of time. With the writing for Damned and Blessed, there was, of course, some things that were unavoidable and that’s why we have tracks such as ‘Rise’.
We are not telling anyone what way to think or who to choose. It’s more of a call to arms for using your voice to make a change and stand up for what you believe in, if anything else. Whether people may or may not like the outcome of the recent political outcome, that’s not what our message is. More people used their voices to make a change this year and look what happened – the unthinkable! Looking past the obvious here, you’ve got to understand that the power of the people is unbelievable at times. When we all realise that our numbers are powerful together and we have the ability to make a difference and change our world for the better, things will start to get better as a whole in general. At least I hope it does (laughs).
OD – Looking at the tactic on releasing the split-albums and not one double release, did you ever have a conversation about just saying ‘fuck it’ let’s just release it as one album?
DJ – No not at all. The thing about Sixx AM, is that we are all real friends, who genuinely hang out and talk about everything. We come up with a great game plan and we have always stuck to that game plan. This time around we decided right out of the gate, that we were going to record two albums in the same continuous session and then release them as two separate releases, albeit part of an overall concept.
However the bigger goal was, we just didn’t want to release two mediocre albums. The quality of the songs had to be bigger and better than anything that we had ever done in the past. With every album’s release, the idea is to outdo the previous one and that approach didn’t differ from our plans, as we set out to make Prayers for the Blessed even more of a kick in the face than it’s predecessor. Once we grouped all the songs for Prayers for the Damned, it was apparent that we had set the bar extremely high, causing us to work twice as hard to try to better what we had already achieved.
OD – You have already been on the road this year with Prayers for the Damned, but have you guys been dropping any of the new material from Prayers for the Blessed in a live setting?
DJ – Yeah, we have been playing the brand new single ‘We Will Not Go Quietly’ and I’ve gotta say – the crowd reaction we have been getting for that track is just mind-blowing! It’s actually going down better than any of the other tracks in the setlist to be honest, which is just amazing.
OD – It must be such a tease for you to be holding back on a new album which playing live. Do you find yourself getting impatient for the experience of finally playing new material that the fans will be able to recognise?
DJ – It really is man! It’s like these are my new batch of kids and I just want to get them off into the world. Just being able to share the music and see the reaction from people during the live shows is so rewarding; in its own right.
OD – I believe that when you toured Modern Vintage, it was really the first time that Sixx AM became a band that existed outside the studio. Do you find that since getting out on the road and doing these shows the dynamic of songwriting and performance has improved?
DJ – I think as songwriters, we have absolutely progressed as a band in all capacities. I guess Modern Vintage was one of the more bizarre Sixx AM albums for the fans (laughs). I’m very proud of that album for so many reasons but mostly because we really took a chance with what we were doing. We didn’t approach it with the mindset of “we really have to get these songs on the radio”, it was more kind of like us doing some soul searching and find out what got us all into music in the first place, all the while asking ourselves “why do we write the way we write?” and “why do we sound the way we sound?”
When recording and writing Modern Vintage, it was kind of like we took off our masks of what people perceived of us already. The whole experience really made us understand our sound, who our influences were and where we came from individually. More importantly, we discovered where we were going collectively as a band. As cliché as it may sound, the whole experience really taught us about who we really are. From that point, we were able to understand ourselves a little better and I think that Prayers… Vol 1 & Vol 2 is a perfect translation of who Sixx AM is and what our intentions are as a band moving forward.
OD – Looking back over the past few years with your commitment to Guns n’ Roses and Nikki’s with Mötley Crüe, it must have been very stressful to commit to Sixx AM amidst the demands of touring and promo stuff, to mention your own personal life. Did it feel like a tremendous weight had been lifted off your shoulders when you finally departed from Guns n’ Roses?
DJ – It really does feel like a humungous weight has been lifted off my shoulders for sure. That was as huge responsibility for me being in Guns n’ Roses and to be honest, I didn’t really know just how big that weight was going to be. I learned a lot from my time with G n’R and am very grateful for it all. I experienced something for six whole years that money can’t buy and I was able to take away a huge amount of self-growth and an insight into the workings of a huge band like that.
I didn’t for one moment, anticipate that along with such a great gig, was going to be so much criticism, as well as a lot of praising and a lot of everything! The whole experience really made me grow thick skin real quick (laugh) and be aware of my surroundings. Looking back on that whole experience, I took away so much, to which I apply to my everyday life, as well as my role in Sixx AM. I feel that it’s overall made me a better business person and I’m very grateful for it.
OD – In keeping with Guns n’ Roses, have you seen any of the ‘re-united’ live shows recently?
DJ – No I have not. I would love to see that show. I could not be happy for them that Slash and Duff are back with Axl. I would actually love to see the whole original line-up back on stage together and that’s the fanboy in me talking (laughs)! But as the band, they are now, I guess we’ll take what we can get for now. I’m extremely happy about the fact that those guys have sorted out their differences and can give the fans a chance to witness that chemistry that we all know so well from the early days.
OD – If you got the call to jump back into Guns n’ Roses, or even to fill in for Izzy (Stradlin) for a couple of shows, would you do it?
DJ – To be honest, I think they are doing great without me and really, I don’t see myself going back to Guns n’ Roses ever again. Those days are over for me. I’m having a blast doing what I’m doing with Sixx AM and couldn’t be happier with the way things have panned out for me. My heart is totally committed to all things Sixx AM right now and I’m very excited about the prospect of touring and writing more music with Nikki and James.
OD – Now that Sixx AM is free from commitment to Guns n’ Roses and Motley Crue, with more time being dedicated to the overall business of the band, do you think you will embark on a more extensive European / UK tour in 2017, hitting places that you have never played such as Ireland?
DJ – Well one of the biggest reasons why we are all committed to Sixx AM, is to bring it to places such as Ireland, as well as South America and beyond! We want to take our shows to anywhere that will have us. We really want to get back over to Europe as well as everywhere all over the world. At this point, we need to plan out the tour and see what offers we get, but I’m confident in the prospect of Sixx AM hitting just about everywhere in 2017! We are really excited to bring our back catalogue out on the road as we now have five great albums to pick and choose from as well as a fan base that has stuck with us for the last ten years. Watch this space!!!!
Prayers for the Blessed is released worldwide via Eleven Seven Music. Click here to order your copy.
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